When I joined the Green Party, animal protection was one key element for me. Whilst other parties appear to shy away from this in order not to upset wealthy and powerful meat, diary, pharmaceutical and clothing industries, nor wishing to upset costumers with the realities of consumption, we the Green Party have been staying true to facts and our values. However, whilst I believe our policies strongly reflect that, I think we could and should prioritise animal issues more.
I have been campaigning on various aspects relating to animal protection which bring an extremely wide spectrum of issues from general animals protection, hunting, animal testing, factory and other farming, clothing, antibiotics and climate change, which is often forgotten.
I have grown up in a family who loves animals. We have been rescuing varies animals; and my mother taught us from young on to have empathy. I am against keeping generally animals in cages and in confinements unsuitable for their species. For example, I would introduce laws to seize keeping certain pets like birds, hamsters, rabbits, fish etc, animals that are being kept for entertainment in cages, often alone whilst being social creatures. Budgies in nature, fly in huge groups very long distances. Keeping them alone, or with one other bird in a small cage is simply cruel. I also do not think this is beneficial for children. It teaches them to ignore the animal’s needs; and furthermore children will consequently lose their ability to connect empathically. I, therefore, believe it to have a psychological negative impact on kids. Zoos are similar – I remember taking my little sister to the Munich zoo. I saw how a gorilla tried to break the lock in order to get out. He was alone and visibly depressed. His back was turned to us. He glanced occasionally over, then shuffling further to hide his face from the glaring visitors. I have found this very upsetting, and swore then with my 17 years that I would never visit a zoo again. I appreciate that some zoos are better than others; I also know that some species may not survive in the wild anymore, and that zoos have helped conservation. However, I do not think that is a sound argument. I have found Costa Rica’s attempt and plans to close down zoos very promising. Their plans included putting institutionalised animals into nature reserves. If animals are under threat of extinction, we should address this working closely with nature reserves and governments. Justifying keeping wild animals locked away in unsuitable confinements surely is not the answer.
Hunting, particularly for sport is completely unacceptable. The argument that hunting is necessary to keep certain groups of certain species in sustainable sizes is ludicrous. It has been argued very persuasively that animals adapt to a declining numbers by increasing breeding. Nature counter acts to any such changes. For example if deer are being shot, the herd is likely to increase breeding to correct the imbalance. Furthermore I find hunting, particularly for sport absolutely unacceptable. It’s cruel, unnecessary and furthermore as a psychotherapist I think unhealthy for the hunter. We know cruelty to animals is a sign and likely a contributing factor to psychopathic traits with a decreased ability to have empathy. On these grounds, I support a ban on hunting.
Animal testing must be completely reviewed. I thoroughly support our policies on this topic. Many tests are absolutely unnecessary as other companies have already completely the same tests. Results should be shared. Many animals like rodents differ from us significantly, hence results may not actually be reliably compatible.
Factory farming is completely unacceptable. First of all it is very cruel. We know that animals have feelings, mothers grief for their babies when they are taken away within a few hours or days after birth. Keeping animals inside and in small cages is highly inadequate. Factory farming is profitable because costumers buy cheap meat and have become used to eat meat often daily, which bring some health problems as this is simply not good for us. However, this is unhealthy, unsustainable and cruel. I oppose all factory farming for various reasons besides its cruelty. The land used to grow the animal feed should be used to grow food for human consumption. Producing meat means that these animals have to be fed. Land used to grow the animal food is taken from the area used to grow human food. More intensive units means less land for human food. For example, the calorie needs of a growing pig is about double that of a human child under 10 and 50% higher than an active adult. So the food going to this pig unit could feed 50,000 children.
Another major concern is the use of antibiotics. In large factory farms animals are kept in unnatural and confined environments, the outbreak and spread of diseases is, therefore a serious risk. In order to prevent this, animals are usually kept on low doses of antibiotics. 27% of all antibiotics are used in pig farming here in the UK. Experts are increasingly warning that bacteria are getting resistant to these antibiotics, which are the same as the ones used in human medicine. We rely on antibiotics heavily; without effective antibiotics normal operations and common illness can become lethal. Risking losing the service of valuable antibiotics through overuse as in factory farms is irresponsible.
These factory farms use a lot of energy and have a high carbon footprint. Since we are facing a major environmental crisis, we need to reduce energy usage and carbon omission. The UN has published information that states that the meat and dairy industry produces 18% of greenhouse gases globally; however other studies imply an even higher contribution.
These factory units will further harm small and medium sized farmers. Farmers cannot compete with the low prices that these mega units can achieve at the present time. These units usually have fewer employees than if the animals were traditionally farmed, more farmers and workers would be earning a living from this. Do we really want our British farming to become an industrial production line? Do we really want our landscape to be filled with industrial units? Or do we want to see traditional farms with grazing animals in the fields?
Sadly we ab-use animals on many levels, another example is for clothing. When I grew up, many including myself strongly opposed using fur. However leather is not widely discussed. And in deed I used to think that using the skin of animals killed for meat makes sense. I continue to think that if these animals are already killed, making good use of the by-products seem sensible. However, this is often not the case. In China, for example, many animals including cats, rabbits and dogs are killed simply for their skins. Their capture and deaths are particularly cruel, and is cheaper than producing synthetic leather or fur. Consequently often even with cheap clothing, contain real fur and leather. We should address this with adequate labelling, so costumers are made aware of it. We also should ensure that products sold in the UK should adhere to UK animals protection standards.
These are just a few examples of my views on animals issues. Additionally, I have been campaigning or supporting campaigns against the badger cull, cruel sports like racing or fighting (for example bull fighting), marine life protection and so on.
Humans are the greatest predator to all species, and considering that we claim to have compassion and empathy, we have been failing to show basic respect and care for other creatures. It saddens me. When I post a video containing cruelty towards animals, I often get responses from others saying that I should not have put it up as it was too distressing. My answer then is, if reality is too distressing, we should change it, rather than to pretend it did not happen.